Lenten Devotions Archives » Page 9 of 25 | Devotions | Goshen College

March 14, 2013

By Jeff Hochstetler, apartments manager
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 3:4b-14 (NRSV)

Standing at an intersection of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, last summer, I finally saw some German-speaking colony Mennonites. Plainly dressed, many of these Mennonites had come into town to shop and gather supplies to take back to their colony. I had been living in Bolivia for a couple of weeks with an urban, Spanish-speaking Mennonite family. Most of the German-speaking Mennonites lived in rural areas. In contrast, Spanish-speaking Mennonite churches are largely urban. Rarely did the two-different Mennonite groups relate to each other.

Eager to meet some other fellow Mennonites, I was curious about them. Yet as I walked in the market toward some of the German-speakers, I found that none made eye contact with me. I tried to greet another Mennonite next to me, but was met with silence. Bolivian colony Mennonites have had good reason in the past to be wary of outsiders. Still, the cold greeting I received from many that day sharply contrasted with the warm welcome I had received from my host family.

In today’s Scripture, Paul boasts about his righteous heritage. In a twist of irony, Paul’s “boast” clearly becomes a confession – an honest assessment of owning up to past wrongs as a persecutor of the church. Moreover, he writes that past things that he once counted for status he no longer counts as privilege. While Paul acknowledges his mistakes, he does not dwell on them. Instead, Paul seems intent to focus on the transformative power of Christ to adopt us in faith.

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 3:4b-14 (NRSV)
even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
March 13, 2013

By Becky Snider, a sophomore music major from Broadway, Va.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord.
Restore our energy.
Restore our motivation.
Restore our vision for the future.

At this point in the semester, I think most college students would agree that they need some restoration. You start the semester excited for new classes and new opportunities, but after two months that motivation starts to slip away. It takes more effort to get out of bed in the morning. It takes more effort to write the reflection that your professor assigned as homework. It takes more effort to go over your notes one more time before you go to bed. The carrot dangling ahead that keeps you going is spring break. It doesn’t matter whether your plans for break are to go to the beach with your friends, to go home and be with your family, or to stay on campus; the idea of no classes, no assignments and no real commitments pushes you through.

Okay, so probably the majority of you reading this aren’t college students, but everyone needs breaks. It could be that your work schedule doesn’t allow for you to take off for long stretches of time or you’re a parent and you can’t put your children’s needs on pause while you go on a vacation. But that’s when God comes into the picture. “Restore our fortunes, O Lord,” the psalmist pleads.

In those times when you’re burnt out and it seems like there’s no way to revive your desire to keep moving forward, may God restore you.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
March 12, 2013

By Paul Steury, assistant professor of sustainability and environmental education
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 43:16-21 (NRSV)

Quite often we are told to be humble. My mom always said “pride cometh before fall.” But we must take pride in who we are – body and soul!

In today’s text it says, “the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.” Wow! All of us – all 7 billion people were made for God and it says we need to acknowledge that. This is the same Creator that made the owls and jackals, the deserts and the rivers, the cardinals and the black squirrels. It is the Creator that made our muscles and our reflexes so we can be mobile and blink. It is God that made chlorophyll so plants can create sugar and so we can breathe. They are, what I say, amazing daily miracles.

But often we just take those simple day-to-day things that surround us for granted. We get into our routines and grinds and we sure know how to complain some days!

We need to daily exclaim, “Wow! God you are amazing to create all these things that I need – thank you soooooo much!!”

Be proud that you are an amazing miracle – all of us – every single thing! Because God reminds us in verse 21 that we are “the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.”

Be proud. You are a miracle!

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 43:16-21 (NRSV)
Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
who brings out chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honour me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
March 11, 2013

By Regina Shands Stoltzfus, assistant professor of peace, justice and conflict studies
THIS WEEK’S THEME: Christ Jesus Has Made Us His Own

Memory is embedded in the texts for this week. The prophet Isaiah, the psalmist, the apostle Paul and the Gospel writer all issue a call to remember. Remember where you have been. Remember who you are, and how you were called. Remember how you were saved. And remember that God is at work, doing a new thing – you may think your situation is the rockiest rock bottom you’ve ever experienced, but God can work with it.

We know who we are in part because of how we are named. Perhaps our name comes from a key figure in history. We might bear the name of a grandparent or other beloved family member or friend. Maybe it is simply a name our parents liked, and deemed it special enough to give to a child. However they come to us, our names signify more than just what we are called. They indicate to whom we are attached. The reminder to “remember who you are, and where you come from” is an important one. It keeps us connected to a larger reality, and guides our actions.

The Exodus event that shaped Israel as God’s own brought them out of miserable slavery and into marvelous freedom. And yet, that act of deliverance, great as it was, was not the final chapter. God is always doing new things. God is always restoring. God is always calling.

This week we are reminded that we have already been called, named and claimed as Christ’s own. As we move toward the events of Passion week and recount the journey to the Cross, let us remember our calling.

March 8, 2013

By Brook Hostetter, a senior music major from Harrisonburg, Va.
SCRIPTURE: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 (NRSV)

While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him.

When I read in today’s Scripture about how the son was “still a long way off,” I imagine him in rags, perhaps with a small sack of belongings, limping down a path towards his father’s house. The father, working outside, recognizes the familiar stride of his son from a distance, and runs to greet him.

I have been in the son’s position, and I’ve seen friends in the son’s position as well. We stray away and begin to search for fulfillment in the world. After some time, we realize that home was better, so we turn and take a step back toward the Divine. Maybe the step is just a simple prayer, but God sees the desire, and therefore runs, grabs us and embraces us in love and compassion.

I’m comforted in knowing that although we may turn away at times, God waits in expectation of our return. God allows us to remember, and then welcomes us home, even though we don’t deserve it.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 (NRSV)
Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
So he told them this parable:
Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’
March 7, 2013

By Emily Trapp, a senior music major from Canby, Ore.
SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NRSV)

Have you ever wished that you could just start your day over? That maybe you could take a nap for a couple of hours and try again during your lunch hour? Unfortunately, I have felt that sensation many times since being in college. As much as we try to be in control sometimes, we are ultimately not the one calling the shots in our lives.

This is something I struggle with often. I am a lover of iCal, productive apps on my smartphone, to-do lists, anything that will make me feel more on top of my life. But when I take time to reflect on this lifestyle that I can so easily get wrapped up in, it reminds me of all of the walls I may be building around myself to limit God from using me in the best ways possible. I believe that it is only when we give everything (schedules, insecurities, needs, etc.) up for God to control that we can be shown the true power of his grace in our daily lives. It is, after all, our responsibility as ambassadors of Christ to carry reconciliation in our hearts not only for others around us, but for ourselves as well.

I’d encourage you to think about the ways in which you may be building walls between you and God. What’s stopping you from starting over? No matter who you are, where you are or what you may be carrying in your heart today, we are all granted the gift of beginning fresh. What are you waiting for?

SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NRSV)
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
March 6, 2013

By Maria Koshmider, a senior elementary education and special education major from Dundee, Ohio

“Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The Word of God reminds us, or maybe even comforts us, that we are not alone in our sin. When I have felt ashamed or convicted of my sins, I think to myself that this is a reminder of how much I love God, and how much God loves me. If I am feeling convicted, obviously there is something more God has intended for me. There must be something better. I can be assured that the sorrow in my heart will not last forever. Still, ahead lies the daunting task of confessing my sins and seeking forgiveness.

Why is it so difficult and painful to humble ourselves before the Lord and confess our sins directly? What do we fear? Does the Lord not assure us that our conscience will be clear and we will have peace in our hearts?

As Psalm 32 tells us, we will be blessed if we are forgiven. We will be set free when our sins have been covered with God’s mercy and grace. God desires for us to seek him in prayer and confess our sins. God does not wish for his children to live in the bondage of sin. By his love we have been set free, and God assures us that he will never take this away from us.

Now is the time. Set yourself free from the bondage that is keeping you from experiencing the freedom God has intended. And may peace be with you.

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’,
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Therefore let all who are faithful
offer prayer to you;
at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters
shall not reach them.
You are a hiding-place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,
else it will not stay near you.
Many are the torments of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
March 5, 2013

By Jodi H. Beyeler, assistant director of communications and marketing
SCRIPTURE: Joshua 5:9-12 (NRSV)

Changes coming upon us
It keeps moving, moving around us
Got to keep dancing knowing
He loves us
Got to keep joy in our hearts
– song lyrics from “Changes” by Jim Croegaert (listen to the whole song here)

The winds of change are indeed swirling around us on every level. You can notice it in your own decreased energy. You can feel it after a telephone call from a friend who just lost her job. You can hear it in the news from Wall Street and the White House. You can wonder about it as flowers begin to bloom and robins appear in January in Northern Indiana.

The fear of change can overwhelm us, paralyze us and keep us from living. But that is not our only option.

Changes on this journey to the Promised Land – even when the rules change and nothing is predictable anymore – also mean that everything is about to become new. Life is about to emerge from death. That is God’s promise.

Even as change sweeps over us, can we be ashamed no more? Can we give up what is holding us back or holding us down? Can we move towards the Good News of Jesus Christ? Can we keep joy in our hearts?

SCRIPTURE: Joshua 5:9-12 (NRSV)
The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.’ And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.
While the Israelites were encamped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.
March 4, 2013

By Luke Gascho, executive director of Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College
THIS WEEK’S THEME: God Will Remove Our Disgrace

Today I turned a bowl from two pieces of discarded wood. While I was doing this project on the turning lathe, I thought about this Lenten theme and realized what I was doing paralleled messages found in the Scriptures for this week!

I started with two chunks of wood that had been deemed “worthless.” The piece of black walnut was considered too small to be of any use in a large shop. The cherry was from a log that loggers had left behind since it didn’t have any value to be sawn into boards. One could say that the wood had been “disgraced” – or kept from a grace-filled purpose. But I could see great value in both pieces. I smoothed the two chunks, glued them together and was ready to start a new creation.

As I began to turn the wood, I imagined the bowl that would emerge. With sharp tools, I shaped what had once been undervalued into a pleasing design. I appreciated how the two different kinds of wood had been “reconciled with each other,” as their colors complemented each other. The bond between them had become strong physically and visually. The newly created bowl reclaimed and preserved beauty in wood that been discarded.

Consider these questions as you reflect on my woodturning story and read the passages for this fourth week of Lent:

  • What experiences in our lives are like the “before and after” aspects of the two pieces of wood?
  • How do the actions of the wood turner represent the ways we can be reconcilers in our daily encounters?
  • What are the renewing and recreating events that you can celebrate in your life?
  • What are ways you can turn “disgraced” relationships into “grace-filled” new creations?
March 1, 2013

By Liz Core, a senior communication major from Pella, Iowa
SCRIPTURE: Luke 13:1-9 (NRSV)

The word “repentance” is daunting.

This probably has something to do with the not-too-uncommon depiction of a lofty God furrowing his brows down on a Sodom-esque community, commanding “Repent, sinners!” in a booming tone.

The broader Christian tradition has also had its own unfortunate history of preachers and people shouting from pulpits or street corners: “Repent, for thou art lowly!”

This constant reminder of our sinfulness can do only harm. And, as I have learned from my own past feelings of self-loathing because I believed sermons that told me God does not accept me, I am not sure if dwelling in disgust for ourselves is holy at all. Not one bit.

Though, this is not to say that repentance is unimportant. After all, the theme of repentance occurs numerous times in Scripture. Even Christ reminded a crowd that “Unless you repent, you will all perish” in Luke 13:5.

Again, this is scary.

But, real repentance is not a threat. It is an invitation to allow more of God’s goodness into ourselves by giving up the fight to hide our sinfulness. Repentance allows God to dig through our bulky, embarrassing baggage that we’ve been hiding or avoiding. This is a step towards more growth, so that we may thrive. And, this is far from a command to cower before an angry throne.

After all, we all know that we are sinners already. But it is when we are ready to admit this and move on, through repentance, that we grow and bear the fruit. And this kind of repentance is not scary. It is lovely.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 13:1-9 (NRSV)
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’
Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” ’
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